While playing ball in my teens, I had his poster in my room (along with Dick Butkus, Bob Lilly, the Doors and a day-glo Captain America). I used to wear his No. 74 in Pop Warner and high school out of admiration and respect.
He seemed like such a nice guy and the quintessential gentle giant — ferocious on the field while kind and placid off it.
Olsen was the kind of role model that sports and kids sorely miss: a tremendous athlete — physically gifted, studious and smart — obviously intelligent, fully prepared for life after football with never a hint of impropriety.
He also struck me as a man men would strive to be: as brutishly tough and determined as they come, yet scholarly, kind, considerate and dignified; a class act all the way.
The world would be a better place if more people were like Merlin Olsen; it's less of one without him.
In reading about the passing of Willie Davis, I was stunned to read that he still holds the all-time L.A. Dodgers records for the hits, extra-base hits, total bases, plate appearances, triples, and for the longest hitting streak, at 31 games.
I'm also saddened while learning this to now recognize that a man who was sometimes accused of not playing up to his potential in reality was clearly one of the greatest Dodgers ever.
I can still hear Dick Enberg describing another Merlin Olsen sack, "And the applause is for the defense!" I can still see Willie Davis galloping around the bases for another triple. A big part of my youth just walked into the shadows of the Coliseum tunnel. A piece of my childhood just rounded third and headed on home.
The Los Angeles Times welcomes expressions of all views. Letters should be brief and become the property of The Times. They may be edited and republished in any format. Each must include a valid mailing address and telephone number.
Los Angeles Times
202 W. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
By fax: (213) 237-4322